Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Motto: شرف إخاء عدل (Arabic)
"Honor, Fraternity, Justice"
Anthem: نشيد وطني موريتاني
(English: "Country of the Proud, Guiding Noblemen")
Location of Mauritania (dark blue) in Africa
and largest city
|Recognised national languages|
|Government||Unitary semi-presidential Islamic republic|
|Mohamed Ould Abdel Azizb|
|Mohamed Salem Ould Béchirb|
|Cheikh Ahmed Baye|
• from France
|28 November 1960|
• Current Constitution of Mauritania
|12 July 1991|
|1,030,000 km2 (400,000 sq mi) (28th)|
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
• 2013 census
|3.4/km2 (8.8/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2018 estimate|
|$18.117 billion (134th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
|$5.200 billion (154th)|
• Per capita
|HDI (2017)|| 0.520|
low · 159th
|Time zone||UTC+0 (GMT)|
|ISO 3166 code||MR|
Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.
The country derives its name from the ancient Berber kingdom of Mauretania, which existed from the 3rd century BCE into the 7th century CE in the far north of modern-day Morocco and Algeria. Approximately 90% of Mauritania's land is within the Sahara; consequently, the population is concentrated in the south, where precipitation is slightly higher. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast, which is home to around one-third of the country's 4.3 million people. The government was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won.
Mauritania (/ˌmɒrɪˈteɪniə, ˌmɔːrɪ-/ (listen); (Arabic: موريتانيا, Mūrītānyā, French: Mauritanie) is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. In other languages, it is known variously as Agawej or Cengiṭ (Berber), Gànnaar (Wolof), Murutaane (Soninke), and Moritani (Pulaar).
The ancient tribes of Mauritania were Berber people. The Bafours were primarily agricultural, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origins. There is little evidence to support such claims, but a 2000 DNA study of Yemeni people suggested there might be some ancient connection between the peoples.
The Char Bouba war (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort of the peoples to repel the Yemeni Maqil Arab invaders. The invaders were led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Hassaniya, a bedouin Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population.
Imperial France gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal River area and northwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the imperial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances with Zawaya tribes, and military pressure on the Hassane warrior nomads, he managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates. Trarza, Brakna and Tagant were occupied by the French armies in 1903–04, but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anti-colonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn, as well by insurgents from Tagant and the other regions. Adrar was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up and planned in 1904. Mauritania was part of French West Africa from 1920, as a protectorate and, then, a colony.
French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery and an end to inter-clan warfare. During the colonial period, 90% of the population remained nomadic. Many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. The previous capital of the country under the French rule, Saint-Louis, was located in Senegal, so when the country gained independence in 1960, Nouakchott, at the time little more than a fortified village ("ksar"), was chosen as the site of the new capital of Mauritania.
After gaining independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as the French militarily suppressed the most intransigent Hassane tribes in the north. This changed the former balance of power, and new conflicts arose between the southern populations and Moors. Between these groups stood African origins, who is part of the Arab society, integrated into a low-caste social position.
Modern-day slavery still exists in different forms in Mauritania. According to some estimates, thousands of Mauritanians are still enslaved. A 2012 CNN report, "Slavery's Last Stronghold," by John D. Sutter, describes and documents the ongoing slave-owning cultures. This social discrimination is applied chiefly against the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, where tribal elites among "white Moors" (Bidh'an, Hassaniya-speaking Arabs and Arabized Berbers) hold sway. Slavery practices exist also within the sub-Saharan African ethnic groups of the south.
The great Sahel droughts of the early 1970s caused massive devastation in Mauritania, exacerbating problems of poverty and conflict. The Arabized dominant elites reacted to changing circumstances, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and the education system. This was also a reaction to the consequences of the French domination under the colonial rule. Various models for maintaining the country's cultural diversity have been suggested, but none were successfully implemented.
This ethnic discord was evident during inter-communal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the "Mauritania–Senegal Border War"), but has since subsided. Mauritania expelled some 70,000 sub-Saharan African Mauritanians in the late 1980s. Ethnic tensions and the sensitive issue of slavery – past and, in some areas, present – are still powerful themes in the country's political debate. A significant number from all groups seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.
The International Court of Justice has concluded that in spite of some evidence of both Morocco's and Mauritania's legal ties prior to Spanish colonization, neither set of ties were sufficient to affect the application of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to Western Sahara.
Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of Spain, a former imperial power. After several military losses from the Polisario – heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the regional power and rival to Morocco – Mauritania withdrew in 1979. Its claims were taken over by Morocco.
Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. While most of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its wishes with respect to statehood. A referendum is still supposed to be held sometime in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether or not the indigenous Sahrawis wish to be independent, as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or to be part of Morocco.
Mauritania became an independent nation in November 1960. In 1964 President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally installed by the French, formalized Mauritania as a one-party state with a new constitution, setting up an authoritarian presidential regime. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM) became the ruling organization in a one-party system. The President justified this on the grounds that Mauritania was not ready for western-style multi-party democracy. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1976 and 1978.
He was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978. He had brought the country to near-collapse through a disastrous war to annex the southern part of Western Sahara, framed as an attempt to create a "Greater Mauritania".
Col. Mustafa Ould Salek's CMRN junta proved incapable of either establishing a strong base of power or extracting the country from its destabilizing conflict with the Sahrawi resistance movement, the Polisario Front. It quickly fell, to be replaced by another military government, the CMSN.
The energetic Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its strongman. By giving up all claims to Western Sahara, he found peace with the Polisario and improved relations with its main backer, Algeria. But relations with Morocco, the other party to the conflict, and its European ally France deteriorated. Instability continued, and Haidallah's ambitious reform attempts foundered. His regime was plagued by attempted coups and intrigue within the military establishment. It became increasingly contested due to his harsh and uncompromising measures against opponents; many dissidents were jailed, and some executed. In 1981 slavery was formally abolished by law, making Mauritania the last country in the world to do so.
In December 1984, Haidallah was deposed by Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who, while retaining tight military control, relaxed the political climate. Ould Taya moderated Mauritania's previous pro-Algerian stance, and re-established ties with Morocco during the late 1980s. He deepened these ties during the late 1990s and early 2000s as part of Mauritania's drive to attract support from Western states and Western-aligned Arab states. Mauritania has not rescinded its recognition of Polisario's Western Saharan exile government, and remains on good terms with Algeria. Its position on the Western Sahara conflict is, since the 1980s, one of strict neutrality.
Ordinance 83.127, enacted 5 June 1983, started the process of nationalization of all land not clearly the property of a documented owner, thus abolishing the traditional system of land tenure. Potential nationalization was based on the concept of "dead land", i.e., property which has not been developed or on which obvious development cannot be seen. A practical effect was government seizure of traditional communal grazing lands.:42, 60
Political parties, illegal during the military period, were legalized again in 1991. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in 2004. The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian politics after the country's first multi-party elections in April 1992, following the approval by referendum of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya won elections in 1992 and 1997. Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992. For nearly a decade the parliament was dominated by the PRDS. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994, and in subsequent Senate elections – most recently in April 2004 – and gained representation at the local level, as well as three seats in the Senate.
This period was marked by extensive ethnic violence and human rights abuses. Between 1990 and 1991, a campaign of particularly extreme violence took place against a background of Arabization, interference with blacks' association rights, expropriation and expatriation.
In October 1987, the government allegedly uncovered a tentative coup d'état by a group of black army officers, backed, according to the authorities, by Senegal. Fifty-one officers were arrested and subjected to interrogation and torture. Heightened ethnic tensions were the catalyst for the Mauritania–Senegal Border War, which started as a result of a conflict in Diawara between Moorish Mauritanian herders and Senegalese farmers over grazing rights. On 9 April 1989, Mauritanian guards killed two Senegalese.
Following the incident, several riots erupted in Bakel, Dakar and other towns in Senegal, directed against the mainly Arabized Mauritanians who dominated the local retail business. The rioting, adding to already existing tensions, led to a campaign of terror against black Mauritanians, who are often seen as 'Senegalese' by Bidha'an, regardless of their nationality. As low scale conflict with Senegal continued into 1990/91, the Mauritanian government engaged in or encouraged acts of violence and seizures of property directed against the Halpularen ethnic group. The tension culminated in an international airlift agreed to by Senegal and Mauritania under international pressure to prevent further violence. The Mauritanian Government expelled tens of thousands of black Mauritanians. Most of these so-called 'Senegalese' had no ties to Senegal, and many have been repatriated from Senegal and Mali after 2007. The exact number of expulsions is not known but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that, as of June 1991, 52,995 Mauritanian refugees were living in Senegal and at least 13,000 in Mali.:27
From November 1990 to February 1991, between 200 and 600 (depending on the sources) Fula and Soninke soldiers and/or political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by Mauritanian government forces. They were among 3,000 to 5,000 blacks – predominantly soldiers and civil servants – arrested between October 1990 and mid-January 1991. Some Mauritanian exiles believe that the number was as high as 5,000 on the basis of alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government.
The government initiated a military investigation but never released the results. In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible and to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, the Parliament declared an amnesty in June 1993 covering all crimes committed by the armed forces, security forces as well as civilians, between April 1989 and April 1992. The government offered compensation to families of victims, which a few accepted in lieu of settlement. Despite this amnesty, some Mauritanians have denounced the involvement of the government in the arrests and killings.:87
In the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab nationalist line. Mauritania grew increasingly isolated internationally, and tensions with Western countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during the 1991 Gulf War. During the mid-to late 1990s, Mauritania shifted its foreign policy to one of increased co-operation with the US and Europe. It was rewarded with diplomatic normalization and aid projects. On 28 October 1999, Mauritania joined Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to officially recognize Israel. Ould Taya also started co-operating with the United States in anti-terrorism activities, a policy which was criticized by some human rights organizations. (See also Foreign relations of Mauritania.)
A group of current and former Army officers launched a violent and unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. The leaders of the attempted coup escaped from the country, but some of them were caught, later on. Mauritania's presidential election, its third since adopting the democratic process in 1992, took place on 7 November 2003. Six candidates, including Mauritania's first female and first Haratine (descended from former slaves) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya won reelection with 67.0% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla finishing second.
On 3 August 2005, a military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's twenty-one years of rule. Taking advantage of Taya's attendance at the funeral of Saudi King Fahd, the military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital Nouakchott. The coup proceeded without loss of life. Calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, the officers released the following statement:
The Military Council later issued another statement naming Colonel Vall as president and director of the national police force, the Sûreté Nationale. Vall, once regarded as a firm ally of the now-ousted president, had aided Taya in the coup that had originally brought him to power, and had later served as his security chief. Sixteen other officers were listed as members of the Council.
Though cautiously watched by the international community, the coup came to be generally accepted, with the military junta organizing elections within a promised two-year timeline. In a referendum on 26 June 2006, Mauritanians overwhelmingly (97%) approved a new constitution which limited the duration of a president's stay in office. The leader of the junta, Col. Vall, promised to abide by the referendum and relinquish power peacefully. Mauritania's establishment of relations with Israel – it is one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel – was maintained by the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition. They considered that position as a legacy of the Taya regime's attempts to curry favor with the West.
Parliamentary and municipal elections in Mauritania took place on 19 November and 3 December 2006.
Mauritania's first fully democratic presidential elections took place on 11 March 2007. The elections effected the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time since Mauritania gained independence in 1960 that it elected a president in a multi-candidate election.
On 6 August 2008, the head of the presidential guards took over the president's palace in Nouakchott, a day after 48 lawmakers from the ruling party resigned in protest of President Abdallahi's policies. The army surrounded key government facilities, including the state television building, after the president fired senior officers, one of them the head of the presidential guards. The President, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef, and Mohamed Ould R'zeizim, Minister of Internal Affairs, were arrested.
The coup was co-ordinated by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian Army and head of the presidential guard, who had recently been fired. Mauritania's presidential spokesman, Abdoulaye Mamadouba, said the President, Prime Minister, and Interior Minister had been arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers and were being held under house arrest at the presidential palace in the capital. In the apparently successful and bloodless coup, Abdallahi's daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father." The coup plotters, all dismissed in a presidential decree shortly beforehand, included Abdel Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri.
A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, claimed that many of the country's people supported the takeover of a government that had become "an authoritarian regime" under a president who had "marginalized the majority in parliament." The coup was also backed by Abdallahi's rival in the 2007 election, Ahmed Ould Daddah. However, Abdel Aziz's regime was isolated internationally, and became subject to diplomatic sanctions and the cancellation of some aid projects. It found few supporters (among them Morocco, Libya and Iran), while Algeria, the United States, France and other European countries criticized the coup, and continued to refer to Abdallahi as the legitimate president of Mauritania. Domestically, a group of parties coalesced around Abdallahi to continue protesting the coup, which caused the junta to ban demonstrations and crack down on opposition activists. International and internal pressure eventually forced the release of Abdallahi, who was instead placed under house arrest in his home village. The new government broke off relations with Israel. In March 2010, Mauritania's female foreign minister Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass announced that Mauritania had cut ties with Israel in a "complete and definitive way."
After the coup, Abdel Aziz insisted on holding new presidential elections to replace Abdallahi, but was forced to reschedule them due to internal and international opposition. During the spring of 2009, the junta negotiated an understanding with some opposition figures and international parties. As a result, Abdallahi formally resigned under protest, as it became clear that some opposition forces had defected from him and most international players, notably including France and Algeria, now aligned with Abdel Aziz. The United States continued to criticize the coup, but did not actively oppose the elections.
Abdallahi's resignation allowed the election of Abdel Aziz as civilian president, on 18 July, by a 52% majority. Many of Abdallahi's former supporters criticized this as a political ploy and refused to recognize the results. They argued that the election had been falsified due to junta control, and complained that the international community had let down the opposition. Despite complaints, the elections were almost unanimously accepted by Western, Arab and African countries, which lifted sanctions and resumed relations with Mauritania. By late summer, Abdel Aziz appeared to have secured his position and to have gained widespread international and internal support. Some figures, such as Senate chairman Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, continued to refuse the new order and call for Abdel Aziz's resignation.
In November 2014, Mauritania was invited as a non-member guest nation to the G20 summit in Brisbane.
As of 2016, Mauritania had a population of approximately 4.3 million. The local population is divided into three main ethnic tiers: Bidhan or Moors, Haratin, and West Africans. The CIA World Factbook estimates 30% Bidhan, 40% Haratin, and 30% others. Local statistics bureau estimations indicates that the Bidhan represent around 53% of citizens. They speak Hassaniya Arabic and are primarily of Arab-Berber origin. The Haratin constitute roughly 34% of the population. They are descendants of former slaves and also speak Arabic. The remaining 13% of the population largely consists of various ethnic groups of West African descent. Among these are the Niger-Congo-speaking Halpulaar (Fulbe), Soninke, Bambara and Wolof.
Mauritania is nearly 100% Muslim, with most inhabitants adhering to the Sunni denomination. The Sufi orders, the Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyyah, have great influence not only in the country, but in Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and other neighborhood countries as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania (mostly foreign residents from West Africa and Europe). There are extreme restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in Mauritania; it is one of thirteen countries in the world which punishes atheism by death. On 27 April 2018, The National Assembly passed a law that makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of "blasphemous speech" and acts deemed "sacrilegious". The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 13,804) for "offending public indecency and Islamic values" and for "breaching Allah’s prohibitions" or assisting in their breach.
Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. The local spoken variety, known as Hassaniya, contains many Berber words and significantly differs from the Modern Standard Arabic that is used for official communication. Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof also serve as national languages. French is widely used in the media and among educated classes.
Life expectancy at birth was 61.14 years (2011 estimate). Per capita expenditure on health was 43 US$ (PPP) in 2004. Public expenditure was 2% of the GDP in 2004 and private 0.9% of the GDP in 2004. In the early 21st century, there were 11 physicians per 100,000 people. Infant mortality is 60.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 estimate).
The obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high, perhaps in part due to the traditional standards of beauty (in some regions in the country), in which obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are considered sickly.
Since 1999, all teaching in the first year of primary school is in Modern Standard Arabic; French is introduced in the second year, and is used to teach all scientific courses. The use of English is increasing.
Mauritania has the University of Nouakchott and other institutions of higher education, but the majority of highly educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1% of 2000–2007 government expenditure.
The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into 15 regions (wilaya or régions).
Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced limited decentralization. These regions are subdivided into 44 departments (moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical order) and their capitals are:
|Hodh Ech Chargui||Néma||7|
|Hodh El Gharbi||Ayoun el Atrous||8|
Mauritania is in the western region of the continent of Africa, is generally flat, its 1,030,700 square kilometres forming vast, arid plains broken by occasional ridges and clifflike outcroppings. It borders the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara, Mali and Algeria. It is considered part of both the Sahel and the Maghreb. A series of scarps face southwest, longitudinally bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau, reaching an elevation of 500 metres. Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1,000 metres and is the highest peak.
Approximately three-quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. The plateaus gradually descend toward the northeast to the barren El Djouf, or "Empty Quarter," a vast region of large sand dunes that merges into the Sahara Desert. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.
Belts of natural vegetation, corresponding to the rainfall pattern, extend from east to west and range from traces of tropical forest along the Sénégal River to brush and savanna in the southeast. Only sandy desert is found in the centre and north of the country.
Despite being rich in natural resources, Mauritania has a low GDP. A majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. Gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior.
The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4–5%.
Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer." There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.
United Arab Emirates government, via its pilot green city Masdar, announced it will install new solar plants in the city of Atar which will supply an additional 16.6 megawatts of electricity. The plants will power about 39,000 homes and save 27,850 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
The Abdallahi government was widely perceived as corrupt and restricted access to government information. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation, child labour, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems. Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offense in Mauritania.
Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees. Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its post-independence history, under all its leaders.
According to the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report, abuses in Mauritania include:
...mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; security force impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; limits on freedom of the press and assembly; corruption; discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child marriage; political marginalization of southern-based ethnic groups; racial and ethnic discrimination; slavery and slavery-related practices; and child labor.
Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death after he wrote an article critical of religion and the caste system in Mauritania. He is a designated prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Slavery persists in Mauritania. In 1905, the French colonial administration declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very little success. Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was not illegal to own slaves until 2007.
The US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report states, "Government efforts were not sufficient to enforce the antislavery law. No cases have been successfully prosecuted under the antislavery law despite the fact that de facto slavery exists in Mauritania."
Only one person, Oumoulmoumnine Mint Bakar Vall, has been prosecuted for owning slaves and she was sentenced to six months in jail in January 2011. In 2012, it was estimated that 10% to 20% of the population of Mauritania (between 340,000 and 680,000 people) live in slavery.
In 2012, a government minister stated that slavery "no longer exists" in Mauritania. According to the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index, there were an estimated 90,000 enslaved people in Mauritania in 2018 or around 2% of the population.
Obstacles to ending slavery in Mauritania include:
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, situated in western North Africa
We have, by contrast, chosen to include the predominantly Arabic-speaking countries of western North Africa (the Maghreb), including Mauritania (which is a member of the Arab Maghreb Union)...
The Maghrebian countries or the Arab countries of western North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia)...
3,000 were arrested
possibly as many as 3,000 [arrests]
I must tell you that in Mauritania, freedom is total: freedom of thought, equality – of all men and women of Mauritania... in all cases, especially with this government, this is in the past. There are probably former relationships – slavery relationships and familial relationships from old days and of the older generations, maybe, or descendants who wish to continue to be in relationships with descendants of their old masters, for familial reasons, or out of affinity, and maybe also for economic interests. But (slavery) is something that is totally finished. All people are free in Mauritania and this phenomenon no longer exists. And I believe that I can tell you that no one profits from this commerce.
Christianity is a small minority in Mauritania. All of the roughly 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania are within the country's only diocese, the Diocese of Nouakchott. There are several expatriate African churches in Mauritania, though there are no more than 200 Protestants in the country, including foreigners.
In spite of a strict law against evangelization, the Mauritanian Christian community is growing and there estimated to be 400 – 1,000 ethnic Mauritanian Christians. For a period of eight months the Miracle Channel, a Norwegian/Swedish Christian channel, broadcast clandestine Christian gatherings in the Mauritanian desert containing over 160 people.Economy of Mauritania
A majority of the population of Mauritania depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. With the current rise in metal prices, gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior.
The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deep water port opened near Nouakchott in 1986.
In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). The economic objectives have been set for 1999–2002. Privatization remains one of the key issues.History of Mauritania
The original inhabitants of Mauritania were the Bafour, presumably a Mande ethnic group, connected to the contemporary Arabized minor social group of Imraguen ("fishermen") on the Atlantic coast.
The territory of Mauritania was on the fringe of geographical knowledge of Libya in classical antiquity. Berber immigration took place from about the 3rd century. Mauritania takes its name from the ancient Berber kingdom and later Roman province of Mauretania, and thus ultimately from the Mauri people, even though the respective territories do not overlap, historical Mauritania being considerably further north than modern Mauritania.
The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb in the 7th and 8th centuries did not reach as far south, and Islam came to Mauritania only gradually, from about the 11th century, in the context of the wider Islamization of the Sudan and medieval Arab slave trade.
The European colonial powers of the 19th century had little interest in Mauritania. The French Republic was mostly interested in the territory for strategic reason, as a connection between their possessions in North and in West Africa. Mauritania thus became part of French West Africa in 1904, but colonial control was mostly limited to the coast and the Saharan trade routes, and there were territories nominally within French West Africa which were not reached by European control as late as 1955.
In 1960, the Republic of Mauritania became independent of France. The conflict over the former Spanish territory of Western Sahara in 1976 resulted in partial annexation by Mauritania, withdrawn in favour of Morocco in 1979. The long-serving dictator Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was ousted by the military of Mauritania and replaced by the Military Council for Justice and Democracy in a coup d'état in 2005. A new constitution was passed in 2006. An indecisive election in 2007 triggered another coup in 2008. A leader of the 2005 coup, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, was elected president in 2009.List of Prime Ministers of Mauritania
This is a list of Prime Ministers of Mauritania since the formation of the post of Prime Minister of Mauritania in 1960 to the present day.
A total of thirteen people have served as Prime Minister of Mauritania (not counting one Acting Prime Minister). Additionally, three persons, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar and Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed Khouna, have served on two non-consecutive occasions.
The current Prime Minister of Mauritania is Mohamed Salem Ould Béchir, since 29 October 2018.List of heads of state of Mauritania
This is a list of heads of state of Mauritania since the country gained independence from France in 1960 to the present day.
A total of eight people have served as head of state of Mauritania (not counting one Acting President). Additionally, one person, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has served on two non-consecutive occasions.
The current head of state of Mauritania is the President of the Republic Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, since 5 August 2009.Maghreb
The Maghreb (; Arabic: المغرب, translit. al-Maɣréb, lit. 'The West'), also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi al-Kabir), Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi) or Greater Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara (mostly controlled by Morocco) and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta (both controlled by Spain and claimed by Morocco). As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.
In historical English and European literature, the region was known as the Barbary Coast or the Barbary States, derived from the native Berbers. Sometimes it was referred to as the Land of the Atlas, derived from the Atlas Mountains. In current Berber language media and literature, the region is part of what is known as Tamazgha.
The region is usually defined as much or most of northern Africa, including a large portion of Africa's Sahara Desert, and excluding Egypt, which is part of Mashriq. The traditional definition of the region that restricted it to the Atlas Mountains and the coastal plains of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya was expanded by the inclusion of Mauritania and of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
During the era of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula (711–1492), the Maghreb's inhabitants, the Muslim Berbers or Maghrebis, were known by Europeans as "Moors", or as "Afariqah" (Roman Africans). Morocco transliterates into Arabic as "al-Maghreb" (The Maghreb).
Before the establishment of modern nation states in the region during the 20th century, Maghreb most commonly referred to a smaller area, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the south. It often also included the territory of eastern Libya, but not modern Mauritania. As recently as the late 19th century, Maghreb was used to refer to the Western Mediterranean region of coastal North Africa in general, and to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in particular.The region was somewhat unified as an independent political entity during the rule of the Berber kingdom of Numidia, which was followed by the Roman Empire's rule or influence. That was followed by the brief invasion of the Germanic Vandals, the equally brief re-establishment of a weak Roman rule by the Byzantine Empire, the rule of the Islamic Caliphates under the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Fatimid Caliphate. The most enduring rule was that of the local Berber empires of the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Hammadid dynasty, Zirid dynasty, Marinid dynasty, Zayyanid dynasty, and Wattasid dynasty - from the 8th to 13th centuries. The Ottoman Empire for a period also controlled parts of the region.
Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya established the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration in a common market. It was envisioned initially by Muammar Gaddafi as a superstate. The union included Western Sahara implicitly under Morocco's membership, putting Morocco's long cold war with Algeria to a rest. However, this progress was short-lived, and the union is now dormant. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara re-emerged, reinforced by the unsolved border dispute between the two countries. These two main conflicts have hindered progress on the union's joint goals and practically made it inactive as a whole. However, the instability in the region and growing cross-border security threats revived the calls for regional cooperation, with foreign ministers of the Arab Maghreb Union declaring a need for coordinated security policy in May 2015 at the 33rd session of the follow-up committee meeting, which revived hope of some form of cooperation.Mauretania Caesariensis
Mauretania Caesariensis (Latin for "Caesarian Mauretania") was a Roman province located in what is now Algeria in the Maghreb. The full name refers to its capital Caesarea Mauretaniae (Caesarea Mauritaniae) (modern Cherchell), in order to distinguish it from neighboring Mauretania Tingitana, which was ruled from Tingis (now Tangiers in Morocco).Mauritania Airlines
Mauritania Airlines previously Mauritania Airlines International, is an airline based in Nouakchott, Mauritania, serving as flag carrier of the country. The company was set up in December 2010 in response to the demise of Mauritania Airways. In April 2018, it was announced the airline has rebranded from Mauritania Airlines International to Mauritania Airlines.Mauritania national football team
The Mauritania national football team (French: Équipe de Mauritanie de football; Arabic: منتخب موريتانيا لكرة القدم) nicknamed Al-Murabitun in reference to Almoravid dynasty, is the national team of Mauritania and is controlled by the Fédération de Football de la République Islamique de Mauritanie and is a member of the Confederation of African Football. They have not qualified for the FIFA World Cup. However, in the Amilcar Cabral Cup, a regional tournament for West Africa, Mauritania came fourth in 1980 on hosting the competition. The national football team of Mauritania were later runners-up in 1995, losing on penalties to Sierra Leone after the final finished 0–0.
On 18 November 2018, Mauritania qualified to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in their history, after they won 2–1 against Botswana.Mauritanian Parliament
The Mauritanian Parliament (Barlamane/Parlement) is composed of a single chamber:
the National Assembly (Al Jamiya al-Wataniyah/Assemblée Nationale) has 157 members, elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies.Until 2017, the parliament had an upper house, the Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh/Sénat). The Senate had 56 members, 53 members elected for a six-year term by municipal councillors with one third renewed every two years and 3 members elected by Mauritanians abroad. It was abolished in 2017, after a referendum.Mauritanian cuisine
The cuisine of Mauritania includes the culinary practices of Mauritania. Historically, what is now Mauritania has been influenced by Arab and African peoples who have lived in and traversed the "stark" landscape marked with Sahara desert dunes in caravans. There is an overlap with Moroccan cuisine in the north and Senegalese cuisine in the south. French colonial influence (Mauritania was a colony until 1960) has also played a role in influencing the cuisine of the relatively isolated land. Alcohol is prohibited in the Muslim faith and its sale is largely limited to hotels. Mint tea is widely consumed and poured from height to create foam. Traditionally, meals are eaten communally.Mauritania–United States relations
Mauritania – United States relations are bilateral relations between Mauritania and the United States.Military ranks of Mauritania
The Military ranks of Mauritania are the military insignia used by the Military of Mauritania. Being a former colony of France, Mauritania shares a rank structure similar to that of France, but insignia use the executive curl and stars for officers rather than stripes.Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Arabic: محمد ولد عبد العزيز Muḥammad Wald ‘Abd al-‘Azīz; born 20 December 1956) is a Mauritanian politician who is currently the President of Mauritania, in office since 2009. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, he was a leading figure in the August 2005 coup that deposed President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, and in August 2008 he led another coup, which toppled President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. Following the 2008 coup, Abdel Aziz became President of the High Council of State as part of what was described as a political transition leading to a new election. He resigned from that post in April 2009 in order to stand as a candidate in the July 2009 presidential election, which he won. He was sworn in on 5 August 2009.Abdel Aziz also served as the Chairman of the African Union from 2014 to 2015.Nouakchott
Nouakchott (; Arabic: نواكشوط; Berber: Nwakcoṭ, originally derived from Berber Nawākšūṭ, "place of the winds") is the capital and largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara. The city also serves as the administrative and economic center of Mauritania.
Nouakchott was a village of little importance until 1958, when it was chosen as the capital of the nascent nation of Mauritania. It was designed and built to accommodate 15,000 people, but drought and increasing desertification since the 1970s have displaced a vast number of Mauritanians who resettled in Nouakchott. This caused massive urban growth and overcrowding, with the city having an official population of just under a million as of 2013. The resettled population inhabited slum areas under poor conditions, but the living conditions of a portion of these inhabitants have since been improved.
The city is the hub of the Mauritanian economy and is home to a deepwater port and Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport, one of the country's two international airports. It hosts the University of Nouakchott and several other more specialized institutes of higher learning.Regions of Mauritania
Mauritania is divided into 15 regions:
During the Mauritanian occupation of Western Sahara (1975–79), its portion of the territory (roughly corresponding to the lower half of Río de Oro province) was named Tiris al-Gharbiyya.
The regions are subdivided into 44 departments; see departments of Mauritania for more information.Slavery in Mauritania
'Slavery has been called "deeply rooted" in the structure of the northwestern African country of Mauritania, and "closely tied" to the ethnic composition of the country.In 1905, an end of slavery in Mauritania was declared by the colonial French administration but the vastness of Mauritania mostly gave the law very few successes. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery, when a presidential decree abolished the practice. However, no criminal laws were passed to enforce the ban. In 2007, "under international pressure", the government passed a law allowing slaveholders to be prosecuted. Despite this, the number of slaves in the country has been estimated by Global Slavery Index to be 43,000 (or 1.058% of the population) in 2015 and by the organization SOS Slavery to be up to 600,000 (or 17% of the population). Sociologist Kevin Bales and Global Slavery Index estimate that Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery of any country in the world. While other countries in the region have people in "slavelike conditions", the situation in Mauritania is "unusually severe", according to African history professor Bruce Hall.The position of the government of Mauritania is that slavery is "totally finished ... all people are free", and that talk of it "suggests manipulation by the West, an act of enmity toward Islam, or influence from the worldwide Jewish conspiracy." However, Amnesty International estimates that 43,000 people still live in slavery in Mauritania.
"The country has jailed more anti-slavery activists than slave owners, rights groups say." Visa policy of Mauritania
Visitors to Mauritania must obtain a visa from one of the Mauritanian diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries or if they arrive at Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport.